The Art of Choosing Mat Boards 101

custom framed photo in a bedroom

Almost everything can be custom framed from newspaper clippings to magazines, artwork to photographs, and diplomas to memorabilia. When custom framing some items matting is part of the package. Being able to choose your mat board preference is one of the biggest advantages to custom framing your prized possessions. When you choose an off-the-shelf frame, they will not have a mat board. This puts the document, photo, or another item right against the glass which can cause serious damage. But mat boards do a lot more than just separate the piece from the glass.

What is the mat board?

The mat board rests right under the glass but on top of the photograph, artwork, newspaper, or document. They serve two basic purposes. Firstly, mat boards provide visual appeal. They provide a distinct border around the item which helps draw eyes in toward the piece. A lot of people prefer cream or white mat boards, but there are lots of colors to choose from to compliment the piece.

Secondly, mat boards provide a level of protection by maintaining space between the piece being displayed and the glass. Some materials can still be damaged by coming into contact with the mat board. They can become yellow, fade, or turn brittle. Make sure you talk to one of our framing professionals in our Atlanta store about the right materials to use for your framing project.

There are a lot of options including styles, colors, and quality. It can be difficult to choose just the right mat board for a project. That’s where our expertise and experience as framing professionals comes in handy.

What is mat board made of?

Mat board is more than just a single piece of paper, it’s a core and a face paper. The core is the primary component and the face is on the outside. When a matboard is cut you’ll be able to see the core. A lot of times it is beveled. You may also see mat board with a colored core or a white core. These are the characteristics of high-quality mat boards:

  • Made of 100% cotton rag, or lignin-free wood pulp
  • Usually they are at least 4-ply
  • Mat boards are pH neutral or just a little alkaline at pH8.5
  • They pass the PAT or Photographic Activity Test for use in framing photos

There are three common materials used for making mat boards: wood pulp, alpha-cellulose, and cotton rag. Paper, or wood pulp, mat boards are the least expensive type, but it has the most colors available. This type is often used when there isn’t a concern about preservation.

Alpha-cellulose is a paper pulp that goes through a special process. This type is good for long-term matting. However, it doesn’t meet the standards needed for settings like museums. Cotton rag is the highest quality mat board.

How do you know what thickness and ply is needed?

The thickness or ply of a mat board isn’t always a first consideration. Generally, 4-ply and 8-ply are the most common. These are 1/16” and 1/8” thick respectively. However, 6-ply is also a suitable choice for most projects. The thicker the mat board, the sturdier the surface. This can often help prevent artwork and pictures from warping and it adds depth for a nice visual appeal. You can use two 4-ply mat boards to create an 8-ply or a unique effect. 

Talk to a Framing Professional in Atlanta

If you are ready to get started on your custom framing project, give us a call. At Suburban Frames in Atlanta, we can help you choose the right mat board for your project. Let our experience and expertise work for you!